A case for: The Finnish GP

This weekend would have been the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit to the F1 calendar, which is only happening because of a certain Max Verstappen. F1 madness has gripped the Netherlands, it only took about five years for a driver to generate enough buzz to get it back on the calendar. But we aren’t talking about that today, instead I’m talking about a country which has had three drivers who have won the Formula One world championship yet have never gotten close to having a Grand Prix in F1’s 70 year history.

1982 champion Keke Rosberg, 1998 and 1999 champion Mika Häkkinen and the much beloved 2007 champion Kimi Räikkönen all hail from a small country up in Scandinavia, you might have heard of it, Finland! A country that has a rich history of motorsport, mainly through rallying with seven drivers who have won the World Rally Championship, and if you ever saw the piece on Top Gear where James May is given racing lessons by Mika Häkkinen, you’ll realise how seriously the Finns take driving.

So why may I ask, has Finland never had a Grand Prix? Maybe the Scandinavian countries aren’t warm enough throughout the year, but immediately I can refute that because Sweden had a Grand Prix between 1973 and 1978. Plus it’s not like there isn’t demand! We always hear about the Finns traveling down to the Hungaroring for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Why should they be made to travel upwards of 2,000 kilometres to attend a Grand Prix?

For this year, construction was completed on a circuit on the Northern Eastern outskirts of Helsinki with the intention of bringing back the Finnish MotoGP. The circuit was called the Kymi Ring, and it hosted an open test shortly after finishing construction with the Grand Prix scheduled for July 12th, but understandably has been postponed in the current circumstances.

Looking at this video of a virtual lap from the newly-released MotoGP 20 game by Milestone, you can see that the Kymi Ring has some rather unique corners. The fast flowing turn one heading into an uphill hairpin, then a long back-straight before a series of very technical, flowing yet tight corners. Plenty of elevation change too, which is always an amazing characteristic with all the great circuits.

Whether F1 could have a good race here is another matter, although it wouldn’t be any worse than Yas Marina and Sochi. In any case, there have been discussions to potentially have other top-line racing series at the Kymi Ring other than MotoGP. This includes Karting, Rallycross, Speedway, Motocross, and even top-line circuit car racing such as World Touring Cars, DTM and the World Endurance Championship!

Those last three in particular should definitely hammer home how serious the Kymi Ring is about being the home of Finnish motorsport. It has gotten the top grades by both the major motorsport governing bodies for motorcycle and car racing, with the FIM giving it a safety grade A for motorcycle racing, and the FIA have granted the circuit and its facilities, grade 1 licence. Thus making it the first and only Nordic circuit to meet the requirements to host an F1 Grand Prix.

So immediately, this track meets the regulations to host F1, so it would beg the question, why isn’t it already trying? Well, as the answer always seem to be, money. MotoGP got priority over F1 because it cost way less, and it may build up the interest of potential investors but even so, I don’t see any reason why Finland wouldn’t be hugely onboard with getting the F1 circus to go there.

It just astounds me to think that it has taken so long to have the conversation about a Finnish F1 Grand Prix, particularly as we have got an aging Kimi Räikkönen – still racing in F1 at 40 – who will at some point overtake Rubens Barrichello for most Grand Prix starts when F1 does resume. Lewis Hamilton has Silverstone, Fernando Alonso had Barcelona and Max Verstappen will have Zandvoort, why can’t Kimi have the Kymi Ring? I mean, I doubt he actually cares but what about the adoring fans?

Like I was saying, the Finns have to make the journey to Budapest if they want to watch Kimi, their other Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and indeed all the other drivers. Why should they? I’m British, so whether or not the Finns have their own Grand Prix doesn’t effect me hugely, but I think it’s an insult that they have never had one, particularly at the height of Häkkinen’s and Räikkönen’s careers.

One of Finland’s neighbouring countries is Russia, which already has a Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom near the shores of the Black Sea, one of the most southerly points of European Russia. However, there are strong talks of a circuit that has just been completed called Igora Drive, just north of St. Petersburg and not far from the Finnish border potentially taking over the Russian Grand Prix from 2021. This circuit is/was set to host a DTM round this year, and it looks a damn sight better than the current Russian Grand Prix venue.

If it were me organising the schedule, I’d put Kymi Ring and Igora Drive in successive weeks in late July and early August, probably at the expense of the Hungaroring, sorry Hungarians! With the Finnish F1 Grand Prix being a week or two after the MotoGP but before the WRC Rally Finland round. A month’s worth of racing action for the Finns!

As I said earlier, I’m British and none of my family are in any way linked to Finland, nor do I have any special affinity with Finland. But I firmly believe that all you Finns out there deserve a Grand Prix, and I hope it does happen. Kiitos!

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

Interview with Reece Lycett at Autosport International Show 2020

Warren Nel

When did you get interested in racing?

Reece Lycett

I was about seven or eight, and we were at the park and my dad said to me do you want to go a do some go-karting at Stourbridge Raceway and I remember thinking what’s that? He took me over there, and it was only little electric karts at the time, but I found it great fun. Now I always wanted to go for the quicker karts that were racing down below, that was my dream just to race one of them one day.

Warren

Now you spent eight years karting starting in 2013 with the F6 Championship victory which was really impressive. Was that your first season of racing?

Reece

My first season of actually MSA racing started with F6, which was Honda cadet racing and we won the clubman championship award in the first year and that was as a novice and I was pretty proud of myself, and that was quite an achievement at that age, especially in my first year of racing.

Warren

How old would you have been at point?

Reece

About eleven or twelve, around about that age.

Warren

Then you progressed and did some development with a kart in 2015?

Reece

Yes, we joined a race team called One Motorsport. We started developing the One Kart, I became a factory driver. That went on to win a championship in America in Senior X30. It was quite a well-developed kart, and many hours were put into it. It was frustrating at times because we were trying out new things, different axles and we wanted to be at the front, but to get to the front we needed the right setup and make sure that we nailed the kart and all the different tubes and axles. That in itself took a long time, but we got there in the end and it ended up being quite a good kart. We were finishing top ten pretty much every race, which was pretty incredible considering it was only just under a year old, with twenty entrants most races. That was my first season in mini-max as well.

Warren

That must have been pretty interesting, developing a kart?

Reece

I’d already previously been given a kart to test called a Cobra kart and that via cadet chassis. I had a test in that and that was quick, but I had to feed back information as to what they need to do to improve and what was good about it and this was pretty much the same thing. I had to come back after every session say what was wrong, what needed to be fixed and what I thought was good about it. Other things, aesthetic things, sounds crazy, but what colour would like it painted, what appeals to the people racing around you, and spent the season doing that which was quite good.

Warren

Now you took a step up to the HKRC championship in 2016. What kind of kart were you racing that year and also in 2017?

Reece

In 2016 we joined the Junior X30 championship at Hunts Kart Racing Club, which was predominantly the best place to go for track karting. The grids were up to 50 to 60 people, potentially more on weekends and we went out there. The team I was racing with also raced Radicals and they did track days as well. I had a good experience behind me, they taught me everything I needed to know, it was good experience racing with some of the top people in the world, managing to catch them and overtake them was a lot of fun, and then at the end of the season we were nominated for Junior Sportsman of the Year, which was over every class in the club.

Warren

I see that you had an invitation to an F4 simulation with JHR Developments. They’re quite big in the F4 championship. How did that invitation come about?

Reece

I went away and was looking at some options, and one of my mates was also looking as well. JHR came back and they said they were really interested in me, and asked me to come down for a simulation to find out what I could do. I went down, and they told me what I needed to do, taught me how to be a faster driver, got some coaching by Carter Williams, their driver. At the end of the day, they said that they were really impressed with my driving, and that not a lot of people could jump in the car and drive like you have just done there.

Warren

You then stepped up to these F1000 Formula Jedi type cars which I gather have a motorcycle engine in them.

Reece

Yes, they have Yamaha or Suzuki and they top line at 14,000 revs per minute.

Warren

Right, so going from karting into something that has wings, and with the technical aspect increasing, just tell us how you made that step. How did you find that?

Reece

The step for me was quite difficult. I had to commit to lots of training and testing. Tests meant that I had to travel to Bruntingthorpe, but I didn’t have my licence yet. It was only available one week before the first race, when I was turning sixteen. When I learnt that I was going to F1000, I saw a championship advertised, and I thought that looks like a good championship, looks cheap I can get into it. Looked like a good step up. I spent loads and loads of hours practising on Project Cars, on the simulator everyday making sure that I nailed every lap, learning the car. We tested the car at Bruntingthorpe a couple of times, just getting a feel for the car and got to know the team a bit. Now the F1000 is very different to the go-kart, you turn it in and it’s got no grip, but if you oversteer this car, the back end kicks out and it just goes into the gravel pit, which I unfortunately learnt at Donnington Park.

Warren

Okay, you did a few rounds at the end of 2018, didn’t you, including a podium on your debut, which must have been quite special. Tell us about that race.

Reece

Yes, that was a very nerve-racking race obviously. Came from a test session, which was a weird test day, we’d had a bit of rain and a bit of dry, and we were switching between the two and they were horrible conditions to learn the track in, bearing in mind that I’d never raced at Croft, only gone round in the simulator, and I remember thinking, look don’t put it in the wall. Now, when the race started, I just remember feeling really nervous on the grid. I spun up a little bit, went around the track, and ended up making some brilliant moves. Then had a bit of a fight with Elliot Mitchell on the track, and managed to do him after a couple of sequences of about four corners, that was a very exhilarating time, and then just we were coming round to the final lap, I didn’t realise where I was as there was a safety car and the front two had scampered off. I came around and crossed the line and I remember thinking what’s going on here? I pulled in and saw my dad going third, and I went, what!? It was brilliant! It was an exciting time.

Warren

Let’s take a look at the results from your races. Looks like the same weekend with three races per weekend you took fourth place and then the following year at Croft and Brands Hatch took a couple more fourth places. Then then it looks like you didn’t complete the season, and that must have been frustrating, but just go back to those races where you scored those fourth positions and take us through the build up of those events.

Reece

Well, I’d never raced at Brands Hatch before, only really had the test, and had the mix of the wet and dry again which isn’t ideal for learning a track. On the first day, we had the qualifying in the morning, it was wet and we managed to put it in second, I think only a tenth off first place and that was respectable. First race, unfortunately we couldn’t really go and keep the up with the leaders, as we had old tyres, but we managed to keep a respectable fourth place and we were catching third place.

Warren

Now, how many laps are there in these races?

Reece

The races are fifteen minutes, but obviously it depends which track you go to. If you go to say, Brands Hatch, about twenty laps, whereas if you go to somewhere like Donnington Park, it’s more likely to be fifteen laps.

Warren

Finally, could you tell us why you didn’t complete the season?

Reece

It had been a productive weekend at Cadwell Park once again learning the track as I’d never raced there, and been quick all weekend. I’d qualified second on the grid, we were really proud of ourselves, considering we’ve never been there and the race came. We got done by someone in third place at the start, he was the championship leader, but did keep with them throughout the lap, right on their tail and then just as we came down the straight, I heard a bit of a noise, then lost power and then my engine blew up.

 

Warren

Ah, what a shame, after so much promise as well. Now can you tell us what’s happening this year?

Reece

We’re not entirely sure this year, we have a couple of ideas, but nothing is really set in stone. Don’t think we’re going back to F1000, but we have a couple of drives. We’re looking at either Formula Ford, but we don’t know a team yet, or one that’s way up in the clouds, maybe Formula Four.

Well, since I spoke to Reece at the show on the final day, there has been an announcement.

Thanks to Reece coming and having a chat. The young man certainly has been grabbed with the bug with racing. Take a look at his website and give him a follow – @ReeceLycett on Twitter.

https://www.reecelycettracing.com/